What does your job involve?
Basically we waterproof houses and make them look pretty. Some days we are prepping houses for plaster, other days we’re plastering and then we also paint them as well. Occasionally we do commercial buildings, but usually, we are working on new houses or rebuilds.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Because we do all the steps in the process, our days are always different. Obviously, when we finish one house, we move to another which also gives a bit of variety in terms of location and complexity. Typically, our days run from 7 am to 4.30ish, and there are five of us in our team that work together to get everything done.
What will be your role when you become qualified?
I’ll be a qualified exterior plasterer in December.
What do your qualifications involve? How do you manage balancing studying with working full-time?
It’s taken me four years to become qualified, but most people would do it in three. I sort of mucked around in the first year but in the next three I just got stuck into it and was really motivated to finish.
To get qualified, it’s all hands-on work but you also have to do a bit of the BCITO bookwork as you go. While you’re working, your boss will tick off each step as you learn it, and your BCITO Training Advisor will check in with you to assess your progress.
How did you get to where you are today?
I kinda fell into plastering, I decided that I would rather do that than stay at school! My Dad puts up house panelling so he had some connections with plasterers and that got my foot in the door.
Were there any particular subjects at school that you think would help someone to succeed in plastering?
Not really – I think anyone could do it! You definitely need to be fit in this job as its very physical – but if you’re not fit, you will be! BCITO also recommends having good maths and English skills as you need to be able to understand instructions and work out measurements, quantities and angles.
What do you like most about working in the industry?
Everything is pretty good, I really like that I’m learning something new. Also, my workmates are the best – they’re kinda crazy which means we have some really good times on site.
How do you find the work-life balance working in the trades?
There is a really good work-life balance I reckon! I have lots of time to keep up with things like hitting the gym and rock climbing. It’s also really awesome not being broke all the time like my mates at uni.
What has been your most rewarding experience training through BCITO?
Definitely learning the trade, but I also had the chance to go on an Outward Bound course for two weeks last month! It was a pretty awesome experience, and we were all a bunch of tradies who got on really well.
What are the benefits you see while you earn and learn?
Once I become qualified I want to go travelling, so earning while I learn has meant that I have had the means to save up for that. Plastering is a very transferrable skill that is needed in lots of different countries.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
In my immediate future all I can see is travelling, but after that, I’m not too sure. I’d like to be helping people in some way or another, and I’m pretty sure I’ll still be plastering in the future.
Do you have any advice for people who are unsure about what they want to do when they leave school?
If you’re keen and eager to make money, the trades are a good way to go – as long as you’re ready to work hard. If you’re interested in trades then I think you just need to get straight into it and approach someone. Tell them you want to get qualified and you’re keen to do the work and I’m sure they’ll be receptive!
Manaaki Gage was a recipient of a BCITO Outward Bound Scholarship this year.
This article is republished with kind permission of NxtStep magazine.